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There have been years that I received kind Christmas card wishes from family and friends that blessed me and my Atheist-slash-Secular Jewish family, wished Our Heavenly Father’s blessings upon us. They expressed hope we found peace with The Lord Jesus Christ. They mercifully came short of praying for our non-believing souls.
I think the only real appropriate response is: Thank you.
(Except the one time it was a really good friend and I was able to remind her gently, later on, that not all of us believe in the same stuff yaknow, and she was awesome about it.)
I know it’s complicated this time of year. We want everyone we love to feel the joy we’re feeling. And sometimes we get so caught up in the joy we’re feeling that we want everyone to find it from the same place we do, whether that’s gift-giving, Christmas tree decorating, Menorah-lighting, carol-singing, latke-baking, or devouring irreverent gingerbread men.
I get it.
But while I think it’s my job as a decent human being to be kind and respectful and accept that any sort of Merry or Happy is only well-intended, I think that it goes both ways; well-wishers need to be equally kind and respectful and accept that we don’t all celebrate the same Merry or Happy.
That doesn’t take away from what you do celebrate. It’s not a “war” of any kind. (I mean, can we save “war” language for like, I don’t know…actually atrocities maybe?)
General holiday greetings simply acknowledges that all kinds of people are co-existing in this world right now – maybe even co-existing in the same family – and we may all be finding our happy and our merry from different places.
That diversity, in my world view, is part of the excitement and fun of life.
Related: 12 acts of kindness you can do with your kids over winter break, because it’s not just about presents.
Our Menorahsaurus seems particularly hungry this year.
I love my Christmas tree filled with handmade ornaments gathered from decades of travel, and personalized ornaments for each of the girls, reflecting ever-changing interests, from llamas and corgis to Stranger Things and Hamilton. I love the non-stop holiday playlists we blast over the Bluetooth speakers while we wrap gifts, even if we tend to fast forward through the third or fourth cover of Jingle Bells, because, eh. Not the best song, really. (On the other hand, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas always makes me cry. Have you ever heard the original lyrics?)
I love lighting the Menorahsaurus and the fact that everyone now knows the Baruch, whatever their upbringing. I love latkes — and the annual debate trying to get my insane kids to even eat one — and matzo ball soup and spinning the dreidel. I love our Peaster mash-up traditions in April, and I seriously loved Greek Easter that one year I celebrated it, except for the whole head of the lamb thing which freaked me out a little, especially when people started eating the eyeballs.
I admit I really only get uncomfortable when I receive highly religious Christmas cards filled with pointed wishes for us that seem to hinge on our level of devotion. At least if they’re from people who know us well enough to know that’s not how we roll.
Years ago, after one more showed up in the mail, I mentioned it on Twitter. Someone suggested that she wishes everyone a Merry Christmas because that’s what she celebrates.
And I realized, wait…but isn’t the point to wish people a Merry Whatever You Celebrate?
I will always be delighted to wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa, a Joyous Hanukkah (complete with spelling of your choice), a delightful Yaldaz, a properous Diwali, a peaceful Solstice, and a jolly good Boxing Day. And for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in my children’s school, I have done my best to remember simply to tell you to have a really nice winter break.
The gift is supposed to be about the receiver, not the giver.
So please, allow me to wish you a Happy Anything You Celebrate right now. We all need more happy these days, whatever the reason.
In return, while I will graciously receive any kind wish at all — but if you can, maybe remember to wish me a Happy Anything I Celebrate.
And if you’re not sure what that is – whether for me or your cab driver or your mail carrier or your barista or a writer you like online – Happy Holidays is just fine. It doesn’t take away from anything you believe one bit.
It might just make more people feel…you know. Happy.
This post by Liz Gumbinner original appeared on Mom-101. It has been lightly edited.